Saturday, February 18, 2012

Blainletter #49 February 16, 2012

In This Issue

• Upcoming Shows
• Awards Season
• CBC 4???
• What else have I been doing?
• Quote of the Day

Hello friends – this is the first Blainletter of 2012 – hmmm, mid-February - I guess it’s a bit of a late entry. And then it was meant as a Valentine’s Day greeting but missed that deadline too… So now I sit here writing a little last-minute self-promotion for my appearances at the Winterfolk festival rather than attending the Winterfolk launch party. Well the upside of staying home is listening to Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings on CBC’s Canada Live as I write this (more on CBC later). I still remember their show at the jazz festival…talk about the “real deal.” Old school.

Upcoming Shows (Toronto):

Saturday, February 18 – Delta Chelsea, Monarchs Pub, 33 Gerrard St W. 1-3pm Brian's Blues Campfire/Song Circle/Jam. All Musicians welcome. Part of Winterfolk X

Saturday, February 18 – Delta Chelsea, Deck 27 (27th floor) 33 Gerrard St W. 8pm Blues Songwriting Workshop with Gary Kendall and …you (if you’re interested in being part of a blues songwriting session) This session immediately follows a Blues Guitar workshop that should be of interest to many $10 cover for both. Part of Winterfolk X

Sunday, February 19 – Delta Chelsea, Monarchs Pub, 33 Gerrard St W. 2pm it’s jamming with guitar meister Jack de Keyzer. I’ll be playing bass. Part of Winterfolk X

(The Winterfolk fun starts tomorrow night (Fri) with an all-star blues band led by Jack in Monarchs Pub. Lots of great music under one roof all week-end. Full schedule at

Monday, February 27 8pm – The Trane, 964 Bathurst Street – guesting with the Son Roberts Band. $5 cover

Sunday, March 11 – Reba’s CafĂ©, 3289 Dundas Street West, 1-4pm PWYC

Saturday, April 21 – Gate 403, 403 Roncesvales – guesting with Robert Davis PWYC

Awards Season

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Grammy Awards on my new HDTV, especially the guitar extravaganza at the end with McCartney, even though I didn’t get to attend in person. That’ll be the day. I don’t expect to get to the JUNO Awards either this year but I was invited to the media launch and that was a fine occasion with trays of delicacies being passed around. Most of the blues nominees were friends of mine and I was delighted to see them honoured. A few glaring omissions, mind you, like Harry Manx who was just passing through town last week and the larger-than-life Matt Andersen who I had the pleasure of jamming with at my Blues Campfire last month.

The Maple Blues Awards were held last month in the newest and fanciest concert hall in Toronto, Koerner Hall. A far cry from the first MBA soiree which was held at the beloved Montreal Bistro fifteen years ago. Some great music this year and a few emotional moments but the highlight of the show for me was "Funky Louise", alter-ego of host Shakura S'Aida. She had me in stitches - search for Funky Louise on YouTube and you'll see this hilarious promo for the awards also featuring co-host Treasa Levasseur.

There were many great performances but my favourite musical moment was Bill Johnson and what a great guitar sound he had. I had to ask, what was that amp? ...and he told me it's a hand-made amp made in his hometown, Victoria. They're called Toneliner. And they have the tone alright, though the fingers of Bill Johnson had a lot to do with it. I met Bill five or six years ago when he came to the Blues Summit and backed up Layla Zoe at the Blues Campfire. I can't remember if he sang himself at that time but I do remember that he got me a gig in Victoria and I am eternally grateful to him for that. I've been playing his album a lot and so have a lot of other people, apparently, because it was nominated for Blues Album of the Year even though he's hardly ever played in this part of the country. I'd love to see him do a whole evening.

After the awards a few of us made our way to the hotel and had an impromptu jam session in Rick Taylor's room where I had the pleasure of sitting across from Joe Murphy and hearing him for the first time (he did a tune at the Awards but he is best appreciated up close and personal). I never heard of Joe Murphy until last month though he has been a fixture on the East Coast blues scene for decades and I can now attest that he is definitely the proverbial "real deal". Great meeting you, Joe, and great to say hello to many other visiting artists who I only run into once or twice a year. It was a delight to look across the lobby and see the chrerub-face of Tim Vaughn smiling at me. Tim had introduced himself to me at a Blues Summit five or six years ago - he was just a teenager then, surely the youngest delegate ever at the Blues Summit, and now here he was attending as a nominee in the "new artist" category. Good on you, Tim.

CBC Radio 4???

The new CBC service has been launched and features music and profiles on thousands of Canadian artists so of course the first thing I did was to check if I was there. Alas, there were three Blain(e)s but not a Brian. I never had much traction with the CBC – the only play I ever got was from Jurgen Goth who had a show on Radio Two long before I ever got in the habit of tuning in Radio 2. Now there’s another one, which I guess is sort of a spin-off of radio 3. It looks like a good initiative – worth checking out.

What else have I been doing

Speaking of radio, I’ve just had my first taste of the Galaxie Music thang now that I got “the fibe.” Imagine living with 7 or 8 years with no TV, then a year or two with a hand-me-down TV and a coat hanger for an antennae and now a 40” screen and 1000+ channels, most of which I am not remotely interested in watching. Well now I’m set for my (semi)retirement.

In addition to watching more TV, my retirement project includes trying to improve my eating habits (tonite it was kale, sweet potato and salmon and it was pretty good – they say kale is great for you. I even bought the organic variety). And now my music time is dedicated to working on my Ableton Live “hyper-instrument” in the hope of future collaborations with electronic musicians. I’m searching for a producer/programmer who can make beats and knows Max (the MIDI programming language). I just created a ten-minute video blog (vlog?) to show what I’m doing. If you’re curious, go to

I’ll be doing a bit of a electronica mash-up of one of the tunes on my new album, The Ghost of Clinton’s Tavern and we’ve also updated my reggae tune with some real percussion from Wayne Stoute (via Terry Gillespie). I still want to do a bluegrass treatment of my tune about Alice Brock and there’s more so the “living” album project is still alive - thanks to the donors who have kept it going – you know who you are (and your name is on the CD))

So I haven’t turned away from my beloved blues & roots (though I haven’t written a tune in quite a while) but after plugging away for 20 years in this town I’m thinking that what I do has a pretty limited appeal. I should have got the message when I did a gig at the Free Times a couple of years back and realized that I knew every single person in the audience. But, as Bob Lefsetz said in his latest post, it’s not about making average music for average people anymore. Here’s another good quote from Lefsetz, via Seth Godin:

“Your only hope is to create work so great we'll hear about it from someone else.”

If you don’t know who Seth Godin is, here’s a revealing interview”:

Here’s to a productive rest of the winter (we got off easy so far!)

Thanks for reading and for your ongoing support,
BrianB, aka Colorblind Blain, the Stringbuster